Dozens of residents of the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm protested against Israel’s far-right and racist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, January 1, outside of a local medical clinic where he was visiting to boost Israel’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Netanyahu was on hand during the inoculation of what he said was the millionth citizen to receive the vaccine as part of an effort to encourage Arab citizens to be vaccinated. Netanyahu had visited another Arab town, Tira, a day earlier and said he plans to visit others in the coming days, his first appearance in Arab towns in years.
The demonstrators in Umm al-Fahm said Netanyahu came to their town as a publicity stunt; that he had made a surprise visit to avoid meeting protesters on his way; and accused his government of egregiously and continually neglecting Arab communities, especially with regards to endemic crime, violence and lack of infrastructures. Netanyahu indicated Friday that he is planning to campaign heavily for Arab votes in the coming election.
Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) accused Netanyahu of insulting the intelligence of Arab voters. “We already knew that Netanyahu doesn’t believe we’re equal, but his new effort to garner votes also proves that he disparages the intelligence of Arab society. A decade of indifference to crime, inciting violence, and fanning hate won’t be erased in an election campaign,” Odeh tweeted.
Hadash MK Youssef Jabareen (Joint List), who is from Umm al-Fahm, said, “Once he scared the [Jewish] public by saying we [Israel’s Arabs] were ‘flocking to the polls.’ Now ‘flocking to vaccinations’ is Netanyahu’s new election propaganda.” Netanyahu gained global notoriety for warning his supporters on Election Day 2015 that “Arab voters are heading in droves to the polling stations.”
Netanyahu told Channel 13 on Friday that the Arab vote had “huge potential.” The prime minister added that he and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana would meet to work on a plan to reduce crime among Arab citizens. Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman wrote on Twitter: “Now you remember to sit with Ohana to build a plan against crime in our population? For 10 years the blood of our sons didn’t interest you; but our votes in the election bring you to brazenly lie.”